"With this sophisticated, complex and thoroughly absorbing film, [Sokurov] has had another night at the museum reverie. Francofonia is a fascinating essay and meditation on art, history and humanity’s idea of itself." - Peter Bradshaw, Guardian
It will be impossible to neatly package Francofonia into a brief and accurate description, since Alexander Sokurov’s dense, enriching meditation on the Louvre and specifically (but not exclusively) the museum’s status during WWII defies categorization. A constant shuffling of layers is one of the film’s hallmarks: It cuts from deathbed photos of Chekhov and Tolstoy to a Skype conversation that Sokurov has with a ship captain, then shifts to the warm glow of 1940-set scenes between Louvre head Jacques Jaujard (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) and German officer Count Franziskus Wolff Metternich (Benjamin Utzerat). In between are lessons on the Louvre’s centuries-long construction; archival footage of Parisians getting on with their lives during the Nazi Occupation; reflections on how portraiture shaped European civilization; and the spirit of Napoleon (Vincent Nemeth) walking the museum’s grand galleries, occasionally encountering the personification of France, Marianne (Johanna Korthals Altes). Does it all come together? Well, yes, if viewers think of the film as a freewheeling poetic essay, highly personal yet captivating.
Jay Weissberg, Variety